Abbas announces Palestinian elections for the first time in 15 years


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree in the Palestinian Authority on Friday announcing the dates of parliamentary and presidential elections.

Why it matters: This is the first time in 15 years that such a decree has been published. The last presidential election was in 2005, in which Abbas won, and the last parliamentary election was in 2006, in which Hamas won.

Driving news: Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on 22 May and presidential elections on 31 July – although those plans may still fall.

  • Abbas held a meeting with the chairman of the Central Election Committee today and instructed him to prepare for elections in the West Bank, in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and in Israel-controlled East Jerusalem.
  • In a letter last week, head of Hamas political bureau Ismail Hanneh told Abbas that the movement would agree to hold elections as part of a national reconciliation process.

Flashback: After Hamas won in the 2006 elections, the Palestinian Authority came under deep political crisis between Hamas and Fatah, Abbas’s party.

  • The US and other world powers announced that they would not cooperate with Hamas until it recognized Israel, condemned terrorism and committed to previous agreements with Israel.
  • Hamas refused to comply with those conditions and is still rejecting them today. The US, Britain, the European Union and other Western governments still boycott Hamas, and the US designates the group as a terrorist organization.
  • In 2007, a civil war erupted in the Gaza Strip and Hamas occupied the area by force.

big picture: Abbas’ announcement comes after several failed attempts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and collapsed after several plans to hold elections.

  • Abbas, who is 85 and in the 15th year of his four-year term, is not very popular. Recent opinion polls indicate that he may lose to the Hamas candidate.

What will happen next: Many analysts doubt whether this election will actually take place.

  • One of the main stumbles is East Jerusalem. If Israel does not allow voting there, the election can be canceled.

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